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RE: [casi] Two More Reports on Likely Human Cost to Iraqi Civilians

Here is some additional information about the CESR report.  If you would like a copy, please 
contact me at  We will also be putting it up on the website 
( shortly.


New York, January 30, 2003 -- A US-led military intervention in Iraq will trigger the collapse of 
an already fragile Iraqi  public health system, leading to a humanitarian crisis that far exceeds 
the capacity of the United Nations and relief agencies, according to a report released today in 
Baghdad by the New York-based Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR).

Researchers associated with CESR report that the fragile Iraqi health care system, already badly 
damaged by 12 years of economic sanctions, is woefully inadequate to deal with the effects of a new 
war.  Among their findings:

- 92% of hospitals surveyed indicated they were lacking basic medical equipment;
- Intra-operative and post-operative surgical care is virtually unavailable;
- Basic laboratory tests are limited by a chronic lack of essential equipment and supplies;
- Damage to electrical and water systems will severely constrain medical services;
- Shortages of medications, including antibiotics, already undermine routine medical care; and
- Medical system is poorly equipped to handle care of civilian casualties resulting from war.

The report warns that while UN agencies anticipate a "humanitarian emergency of exceptional scale 
and magnitude," they lack an effective response capacity. "Our report confirms that it is unlikely 
that international relief agencies can avert a major humanitarian disaster," said Michael Van 
Rooyen, Director of the Center for International Emergency, Disaster and Refugee Studies at the 
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Iraq has become like a vast refugee camp," said Ronald Waldman, Professor of Clinical Public 
Health and Director of the Program on Forced Migration and Health at Columbia University's Mailman 
School of Public Health. "The population survives largely on government food rations and depends on 
a fragile public health system. They are extremely vulnerable."

The report's findings are based on a research mission from January 19-29 by a CESR team of 16 
humanitarian experts, including Hans von Sponeck, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. 
Working in northern, central and southern Iraq, team members interviewed UN and Iraqi government 
officials; visited hospitals, clinics, public markets, electricity, water and sanitation plants, 
and other civilian sites; and reviewed confidential UN documents.

The research findings question the capacity of relevant actors to operate effectively in light of 
the anticipated destruction of transportation and communications systems and the collapse of the 
public infrastructure.  Current health and nutritional needs of the Iraqi population are served by 
a massive and highly complex system administered by the government of Iraq. US-based relief 
organizations which the United States hopes will replace these crucial government-run operations in 
the event of war have little or no recent history of working in Iraq. The time necessary for them 
to become fully operational in Iraq may result in the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

Pentagon war plans for Iraq explicitly threaten the precarious civilian infrastructure, in 
violation of international law. One of the first targets of the planned military campaign will be 
Iraq's electricity grid, which will cause catastrophic damage to water, sanitation, public health, 
and food distribution systems.  As in the 1991 Gulf War, this form of warfare will claim an 
enormous number of civilian lives, many of them children. Such disproportionate collateral damage 
would violate fundamental principles of the laws of war, including the Geneva conventions--which 
prohibit attacking "objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population."

Philip Alston, Professor of Law at New York University and former top U.N. human rights official, 
said "The rules of engagement are clear. If war cannot be prevented, both the United States and 
Iraq are obligated to comply with the same standards to which every other country in the world is 
subject. President Bush has publicly threatened war crimes prosecution for every Iraqi soldier who 
follows illegal orders. This is entirely appropriate. But no American official has warned U.S. 
troops that they too can be held accountable for war crimes.  If any party seeks to act above the 
law, CESR and likeminded human rights groups will work to ensure they are held accountable for 
their actions."

Roger Normand, Executive Director of CESR, said "It is now the duty of global civil society to 
demand that the Bush Administration abide by these laws, not only for the sake of innocent 
civilians in Iraq, but also to avoid a precedent whereby children and other noncombattants are 
deprived of all protections in war."

CESR also concluded a first round of talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and other 
members of the Iraqi government as part of an international civic peace initiative organized by the 
Center. Comprised of prominent experts in conflict resolution and international human rights law 
from the United States, South Africa, Germany, and Australia, the CESR delegation wrapped up a 
week-long series of preliminary discussions on disarmament and regional security. Roelf Meyer, 
Chair of the Civil Society Initiative of South Africa and former Minister of Defense and 
Constitutional Affairs, said "The next step will be to report to the President [Thabo Mbeki, 
President of the Republic of South Africa] and the international press. The joint way forward is a 
government, multilateral organization, and civic society initiative in the time that is available 
to avoid war."

The Center for Economic and Social Rights, based in New York is a non-partisan international 
organization dedicated to promoting social justice through human rights. CESR executive staff has 
led six humanitarian missions to Iraq, including the Harvard Study Team and International Study 
Team missions in March and August of 1991. CESR's mission to Iraq in 1996, the first to document 
human rights violations caused by Security Council sanctions, was featured by the CBS news program 
60 Minutes. CESR is funded by a broad range of individuals and foundations, including the John D. 
and Catherine T. MacArthur, Ford and Joyce Mertz-Gilmore foundations.

Jacob Park
Center for Economic and Social Rights
Emergency Campaign on Iraq
162 Montague St., 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
t:  718.237.9145 x21
f:  718.237.9147
m: 646.643.7275

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